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Jan 20, 2012 10:55 PM

Restaurant reservations - proper way to be seated

We had made a reservation at a restaurant for 7pm. We arrived on time to find a line of customers waiting to be seated. I approached the head of the line next to the cash register and asked the first party waiting to be seated if they had reservations. They said they didn't. I then turned toward the dining area waiting for assistance. As a waitress approached, I said to her that we had a reservation for 7pm. She acknowledged our reservation and said our table was ready, and motioned for me to follow her to the table.

The first party then began shouting at me that I was butting into the line and should go back to the beginning of the line. I was nonplussed, but refused to go to the back of the line. The two-person party continued to made a scene, hollering at me. I motioned to my party that our table was ready and we were then seated by the waitress. In doing so I asked another party waiting in line if I did something wrong. I was told I should have waited for the first party in line to be seated.

Did I act appropriately?

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  1. You did nothing wrong. Sounds like you were eating in a restaurant full of idiots. Don't want to wait? Make a reservation.

    2 Replies
    1. re: twyst

      I agree. That's why you make reservations, it's pointless if you're expected to wait in line with others who are giving their names and getting an estimated seating time. If a popular restaurant takes reservations, I always make one, for that reason.

      I think the OP was right to ask, though, to make sure that the people ahead didn't also have reservations, in which case it would have been rude to cut in front.

      1. re: hsk

        We often dine at Galatoire's in New Orleans. They have two levels, and also have both a "line," and reservations.

        With reservations, one WILL be seated upstairs, but the food is the same, and except for not getting the "family server," the service will be the same.

        The line usually forms early, but is mostly for downstairs, which can be a bit of a "show," and especially on a Friday afternoon.

        Nowadays (having done downstairs for decades), we make reservations, by-pass the line, and are seated upstairs. Due to schedules, etc., it's really a no-brainer for us, though some in line might take offense. Should any be so bold as to confront me, I would gladly explain how things work. Should that not be adequate, then I would hand the situation over to a host/hostess, and disengage from the "fools." I do not suffer them well.

        Were I a "walk-in," I would never anticipate that I would be seated, in a busy restaurant, before someone, who had bothered to make a reservation, and who's reservation time was then, and now. I just do not understand the thinking of some people?


    2. You should have replied that you had a resevation and didn't NEED to wait in line. What idiots!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Linda VH

        Yes, that would have been the response in my book.

      2. I'm wondering why you talked to them in the first place. I would not have asked other people about their reservation status. By doing so, you initiated contact with them that they felt the need to continue (in a very rude way, of course).
        If one has reservations, one should address it with the hostess/host. Not other customers.

        6 Replies
        1. re: wyogal

          Maybe the OP wanted to know what the line was for?

          1. re: viperlush

            That's not how it sounds in the post. No need to drag other customers into it. The first ones, nor others in line asking for validation.

            1. re: wyogal

              I could be wrong, but I understood the OP to mean that [s]he was trying to figure out whether the customers in the front were waiting to announce their presence to the hostess or just waiting to be seated, having already announced themselves. If they've already spoken to the hostess, there's nothing wrong at all with telling the hostess that [s]he's made reservations and then being seated ahead of them. If they have not yet spoken with the hostess, it is polite to let them speak to her first.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                "I approached the head of the line next to the cash register and asked the first party waiting to be seated if they had reservations."
                Sounds like they(the first party) already had talked to somebody and were waiting to be seated.
                Regardless, bringing other diners into the situation was not appropriate.
                When we go someplace and there is a line waiting to be seated, I go to the front and put my name on the list, then go wait it out. Unless I had reservations, then I would go and tell the hostess.
                This sounds like a weird place, though, cash register up front, but no mention of a hostess/host seating people, but rather the server.
                People have done this when I've been waiting, without a reservation, while those that call ahead, get a reservation, walk in and are seated ahead of us. Would I ever dream of yelling at them? No way.So there were missteps all around.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Another good point, and one that should be considered - what was the line for? Who were those potential patrons?

                  I see where you are coming from.


            2. re: wyogal

              Here, I do agree. They, the walk-ins queued up, would not have been a concern of mine, either. They made a decision to NOT make a reservation, while I chose the other route. They would be on their own, and could scream to the others, plus the host/hostess, all that they wanted.

              Good point,


            3. Is this your first time making a reservation?

              1. if they were giving everyone else in line wait times, i think that you probably should have waited to at least let everyone else get their names on the list instead of jumping to the front of the line. (assuming you mean a line standing at the hostess table and not just one sitting around waiting for tables). should you still be seated before people without reservations? yes. does your reservation give you the right to just butt in front of people waiting to put their name in? probably not.

                23 Replies
                1. re: mattstolz

                  I agree. Even with a reservation, one should wait in line to speak with the hostess. Bypassing others waiting to give their name is not good form.

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    I disagree, it's not rude at all to go to the front and let the hostess know you've arrived for your reservation if others are waiting to put their name in. In fact I think a good hostess faced with a long lineup would ask, so that people with reservations could be cleared out faster.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      If you are in a line, and people don't have reservations and you do, and your reservation is for 7pm and it is 7pm, why would you wait in a line where people don't have reservations? You could be waiting there for a couple of hours if the people in line are waiting for tables to open up. By the time the line clears, you'll have missed your reservation! That makes no sense.
                      Of course, if there is a lineup, I always go to the hostess. If I have a reservation, I say "we have a reservation for 7pm the name is Freia" and they normally say "your table will be ready in a few minutes" or whatever, and then I move off to the side. If I don't have a reservation, I say "how long is the wait?" because if the wait is, say, 2 hours, and I don't want to wait, I'm not going to stand in a line for 45 minutes to ask that question.
                      This isn't a question of jumping the queue, its a question of letting the hostess know you are in time for your reservation, or for gathering information about wait times.
                      Now, if you say "I'm in a hurry, I want a table FAST" and you have no reservation, you'd be out of line IMHO.

                      1. re: freia

                        "I'm not going to stand in a line for 45 minutes to ask that question. "
                        Where in the world do you dine that it takes 45 minutes just to get to the hostess station to ask about availability? Holy moly!! I hope you're just exaggerating because I can't imagine anyone waiting that long to just ask, "How long?"

                        To the OP - I think it was kind of rude to line jump, but you didn't specify what the reservation policy is and what kind of restaurant it was. Was it a real reservation or just a casual restaurant with call-ahead seating? My guess is that the line wasn't that long and the wait to get up there is more realistically less than 5 minutes. I've NEVER eaten anywhere that a line for the hostess stand lasts more than a few minutes (even at inexpensive, casual eating places like Outback Steakhouse at 6pm on a Friday night), so perhaps my opinion is a little skewed. There were probably people in line that had reservations/call-ahead and people that didn't. You may have been line jumping in front of others with reservations if you didn't ask every single party in line about their arrangements. If the restaurant knows what they are doing, they'll clear their 7pm reservations before seating those who were walk-ins, so I don't agree with the idea that walk-ins are going to take the reserved tables. But my main question is whether or not they are actual reservations (as in a guaranteed reserved table) or call-ahead seating... because I can't imagine a restaurant with an actual reservation system having such a long line that you can't wait a few minutes to get to the hostess.

                        1. re: gardencook

                          See, that was my point! If I go to the Keg restaurant in town and it is 7pmish, there will be a line outside the door. EASILY 45 minutes to get to the front because the custom at our Keg is to go to the front of the line, speak to the hostess, state if you have a reservation OR if you want to be on the list. If you go on the list, you go to the back of the line to wait for a table to come available or return when they say a table may be ready (ie." the wait is 45 minutes, you can wait or come back then if you like?"). Its the same at Montana's and Boston Pizza. I live in a small town, what can I say?
                          SO my point was: if I just go to the back of the line and wait to speak to the hostess, I could be there easily 45 minutes as I'm in the line of people waiting for a table on an as-ready basis. This is why I said "I'm not going to wait just to speak to the hostess about tables/reservations. I'll go to the front of the line and get the details then either take my reserved table or go back to the end of the line and wait patiently".

                          1. re: freia

                            exactly. But it sounds like a weird joint to begin with.... no mention of a hostess. and to be screamed at with nothing said to the screamers by the staff... goofy.

                            1. re: wyogal

                              Yes, I don't understand that at all. It would have been easy for the hostess to say "Excuse me, sir, but these people have a reservation for 7pm, they called ahead and their table is ready". The customer shouldn't be suffering the brunt of what seems to be a disorganized front desk.
                              I guess in my town, there rarely is this issue because this is kind of the custom -- go to the front, speak, and if someone is seated ahead of you, well, you say to yourself "smart guy, he made a reservation" and let it go at that.

                              1. re: wyogal

                                Yes, why didn't the hostess pipe up with an excuse me sir but this party has a reservation and please calm down. Odd.

                              2. re: freia


                                I find the whole idea of a 'line' for waiting for a table strange.. here in SEA, at most places, once people put their name on 'the list' if they don't have a reservation (or you are at a place that doesn't take them), people are seated around the waiting area, standing in little clumps, in the bar if they can find a spot, or perhaps outside on their cell phones, etc. while waiting to be called.

                                It seems that there can be a line to check in (put your name on the list), or to speak to host staff that you have arrived for your reservation.

                                People in your town actually stand in a queu waiting, standing until seated for as long as 45 minutes? That must be a big drag.... Is that some kind of restaurant policy that you have to be 'in line' or you won't get called?

                                I would think any decent - even casual place - would do better to not have a line except to check in with hosts. Wouldn't they want people to get a drink, move away from the host area to make room for new arrivals?

                                Interesting, and strange...

                                1. re: gingershelley

                                  Don't forget, I said that the bar is often full at that point. So people will either return later or stay in line. And if it is busy, which is often, then a 45 minute wait is pretty common. You do speak to a hostess, but the thing is this -- the bar is full, your name is on the list, you decide to come back in 45 minutes. You're waiting for a table for 4. The hostess says "45 minutes". A 4 top is available in 30 minutes. If you aren't there, the 4 top gets given to the next 4 top in line. They won't hold it for you. So if you choose to leave and come back in 45 minutes, you may be in for an even longer wait.
                                  Now, when you go to our Keg restaurant, there's a very small foyer and you're met by the hostess desk. There are three chairs to the left of the desk, and that's it. So if you have a reservation you wait by the 3 chairs. If you don't and the bar is empty, you go to the bar. If the bar is full (don't forget, there are a number of clients there just for bar food), then you can either wait or leave. This line forms to the right of the desk and will snake outside the door as people are usually in single file or pairs at the most so there is enough room for incoming people to get to the front to talk to the hostess. And most people prefer to wait inside if possible, because it gets freaking cold here and waiting outside in your fun clothes when it is -12F with wind chill isn't much fun.
                                  I think the reason for the small foyer is because the Keg is in a historic building, which makes it impossible given our local building codes to knock out walls and convert spaces through knocking out 2 ft thick limestone walls. Its the only dedicated steak house in town, and it gets busy. Especially during University special event days, such as Homecoming and Prom. In fact, during these times, the Keg won't even TAKE reservations (I'm not sure why) so there is a huge gaggle and a big big wait time. Meaning we just go elsewheres. This isn't affecting the bottom line of the Keg -- its packed to the gunnels every weekend.
                                  As for Boston Pizza, its in a new building, with a larger foyer with seats on either side of the hostess area. They have a larger bar but if it has been booked for a party, which happens on the weekends, and the main restaurant is busy, and it is a small restaurant, you either wait or leave. And if you wait, there's a line. If you leave, you may not be around if your name is called when a table comes available.

                                  1. re: freia

                                    Freia, wow, that does sound like a KEG challenge! I see why you end up with a line even after checking in. Wish you had more options....

                                    Totally get the issues with a lobby if there is no seating and the bar full. Been there, don't like it. Sounds like tho, if that night you want steak, you line up!

                                    I was just thinking of most places that do have some seating.

                                    Oh, for those places (that I hate to go to) that have those little vibrating plastic things (now don't go getting all freaky here Chowhounds:), that tell you when your turn for a table has come - I hate them ,but see how they can stup the clusterf**ck at the host desk. Never thought I would say it, but for the point and length of this thread, there is a point to those things. Dare I say - once and only and for only once reason - Viva la Cheesecake Factory!

                                2. re: freia

                                  freia: "If I don't have a reservation, I say "how long is the wait?" because if the wait is, say, 2 hours, and I don't want to wait, I'm not going to stand in a line for 45 minutes to ask that question. "

                                  This is your comment to which I was referring above - waiting in line for 45 minutes when you DON'T have a reservation, to ask how long the wait is... which may be another 2 hours or more. If they have this business practice something is being overlooked, it would seem. Sorry if I misunderstood.

                                  Just wanted to clarify what I was saying in above post. :-)

                            2. re: ttoommyy

                              Would you then suggest that if one had reservations, and others, in line, did not, that one should wait until all of the walk-ins are seated, before announcing that you had reservations? I just cannot see that, but might be missing something.


                            3. re: mattstolz

                              But what if it was a long line and by the time the OP got to the front the restaurant had already given their table away because they were late for their reservation?

                              1. re: viperlush

                                Unless the line was 50 people long, i really doubt it would have made a difference.

                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                  So, and just to make sure that I am clear, if the line of potential walk-ins is 50, one, with reservations, should wait until all have been seated?

                                  I do not buy into that - sorry.


                                2. re: viperlush

                                  If that were the case, then the restaurant would be at fault for giving away a reserved table. like ttoommyy says, unless the line were EXTREMELY long, this shouldnt happen. everyone in the line is waiting to talk to the hostess, having a reservation doesnt mean you dont have to wait your turn for that. it just means that once you do, you shouldnt have to wait as long as someone without a reservation to be seated

                                  1. re: mattstolz

                                    The OP doesnt say they were waiting to talk to the hostess though, she said they were in line waiting to be seated.

                                    1. re: mattstolz

                                      Why? People who are waiting to put their name in have to give the hostess their name and number in their party, the hostess has to figure out where to put them and provide an estimated wait time. A few minutes times the number of groups in line when you already have a table assigned and waiting for you.

                                      Of course if the restaurant was half empty and groups were just being seated as they arrived it would be different, rude to go to the front.

                                      1. re: hsk

                                        No, they were waiting to be seated, the first party. They were not waiting to talk to the hostess.
                                        But, I still would not have dragged other diners into the situation.
                                        Doesn't even sound like there was a hostess/host, though. Bizarre all the way around.

                                        1. re: wyogal

                                          It sounds like the restaurant was short staffed at the host position ( a server having to help seat would indicate that). Perhaps the host was off seating another party, and another one was not staffed to hold down the fort up front?
                                          I can see how the 'line' of walk in's was probably frustrated with the confusion, but the OP was still right to go to the front and find out whether the line was for putting in names, just waiting to be seated, etc. so they would know to get back in line or not. I would do just what they did myself.
                                          When finding out the line did not have reservations, I too would turn to any nearby staffer's and let them know I had a reservation to expedite being seated myself knowing I was not a walk in.
                                          The person in the wrong here was that the staff of the resto' did not calm the upset line holders and tell them nicely that reservations are honored ahead of walk-ins, and their table would be ready as soon as their turn came up. The lined up people who made a fuss were just plain rude.